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Posted June 26, 2016

5 time-management hacks for postgrads


It’s no secret that postgraduate studies are competitive, complex, and challenging. You have to handle research projects, courses, and exams, and you may well have a part-time job that supports these studies and your lifestyle. It’s difficult to place all those responsibilities within the schedule, but you know what? It is possible.

Take a look at our time-management hacks – they should serve to make your postgraduate life easier and help you to balance your postgraduate studies with the rest of your life.

1. Avoid physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion

In other words, don’t burn yourself out. Student wellbeing is extremely important and throughout your postgraduate studies, you’re under constant stress. You’re suffering from mental exhaustion every single day, but the tension is not limited to your mental levels. It’s safe to admit that you’re also on an emotional roller coaster. How can you get out of this state? You need to reassess your priorities. Of course you’re mostly concerned about your studies at this point, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect your wellbeing. If you’re feeling like you have no control over your studies and you’re not getting recognition, it’s time to make some changes. The first step towards progress is recognising your perfectionistic tendencies and stepping away from them. Are you always thinking that nothing you do is good enough, so you try to work and study more? That means you’re an overachiever, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, you need to realize that sometimes it’s OK to make less effort and settle for decent results without aiming too high. This approach will leave you with more free time on your schedule, so you can take a rest and focus on the priorities more.

2. Play a trick on procrastination

Your mind can play nasty tricks on you: you think you’re really busy around your studies, but you’re actually procrastinating the really important tasks. Have you started working on the thesis, proposal, or dissertation? Maybe you got stuck somewhere in the middle, but you’re making excuses about being too busy with other important things? Procrastination has at least two main components: busyness and bingeing. There are a few ways to stop this habit from ruining your chances for success. First of all, you need to remove all distractions. Block your social media profiles if you think they are wasting too much of your time. Use browser extensions like Strict Workflow – a Pomodoro tool that blocks distracting websites during working sessions. Remember the previous tip: sometimes it’s OK to recognise the moment when something is “good enough” and stop there. Then, you can move on to the priorities without getting to the point of bingeing.   

3. Develop a long-term schedule

If you want to manage your time effectively, then you have to plan it. Google Calendar is an awesome tool you can use for that purpose. When would you like to graduate? Do you have a plan or are you allowing the flow of events to take you to that point? Set a goal. For example, let’s say you would like to graduate during the next term. Pick a month and highlight it in your calendar. Then, plan the time that separates you from that point in a way that allows you to complete the final project, take care of the coursework, and cover all other responsibilities related to your studies. When you take a look at the schedule, you’ll notice there is time for everything. Do not procrastinate and make sure to leave some time for rest and socialising in between the challenging activities. 

4. Manage yourself, too!

Self-motivation and organisation are the keys to success. It’s important to realise that you were the one who chose this journey. You made the decision to work towards a postgraduate degree because you wanted a great future, so it’s good to remind yourself about that initial drive from time to time. When you manage to achieve ultimate motivation, you’ll need to understand another aspect of your personality: productivity. At what point of the day are you doing the best work? Do you notice a pattern in the procrastination waves? Identify your biorhythm and arrange your schedule around it. 

5. Organise your materials

The research process for your final paper is exhausting. Most postgraduate students like printing out studies and other resources published online, simply because hard copies are better for highlighting and making side notes. If you’re doing that, make sure you categorise and organise the copies. Maintain a diary to note down your impressions, as well as the resources that inspired your ideas.

If you’re using electronic resources, then you’ll need to organise them in different folders and subfolders. Develop a system that enables you to locate the exact document you need without getting frustrated with the volume and chaos of the resources you collected.

It’s not easy to manage your time as effectively as possible throughout your studies. However, this is a skill you can develop with enough practice and commitment, so it’s about time you start making some efforts.

Author Antonio is a hopeless optimist who enjoys basking in the world's brightest colors. He loves biking to distant places and occasionally he gets lost. When not doing that he's blogging and teaching EFL. Make sure to check out his latest dissertation writing guide.

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Matic June 20, 2017, 7:39 a.m.

I think it's all connected. If you manage your personal time well, you won't spend a lot of time procrastinating, and everything will move on much more smoothly. I wrote a short post about writing a thesis here as well, trying to attack the topic: :) Anyway, good post, thanks for sharing the tips.

Charlotte King June 26, 2017, 5:02 p.m.

Hi Matic,

We're glad you found the article useful - thanks for sharing yours with us.


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